A look at beef industry in Argentina

I JUST returned from Argentina - my 4th visit - and as before, the most impressive feature was the excellence and extent of the grasslands to the North West, West and South of Buenos Aires. This flat, grass covered, almost treeless area is icow herd heaveni with deep, rich soils and good water. Winter feed costs are negligible compared with the United States. These many thousands of square miles of ipampasi must be the best cow country in the world.

Angus is by far the major breed with some Herefords and a few Continentals. Of course, to the North of Buenos Aires toward the equator the higher temperatures and greater humidity demand the Zebu influence but it is not seen in the pampas.

My presence in Argentina was under the joint sponsorship of Montana Genetics International, Inc. with headquarters in Bozeman, Mont., and Los Lazos S.A. with administrative offices in Rosario and Buenos Aires.

Montana Genetics International operates under the direction of Lewis Hagen, an informed cattleman and successful businessman, and includes 13 Angus breeders who have pioneered performance selection in Montana and are largely responsible for that states enviable reputation for top performing Angus cattle. Their goal is simply the marketing of superior Angus genetics throughout the world.

Los Lazos S. A. is owned and operated by the able and personable father/son team of Federico Boglione Sr. and Jr. These gentlemen have extensive land holdings used for commercial beef production, corn and soybean production and a 4000 cow dairy. In addition, agricultural products are given added value by processing corn and soybeans for both human and cattle consumption.

The latest project is an Angus seedstock herd known as Cabana El Volcan on a beautiful ranch near the town of Balcarce in the heart of the pampas. Every effort has been made to make this herd a source of world class Angus genetics.

Traveling Argentina in the company of the Montana delegation was very enjoyable but the planing and execution of events by the Boglione family and their top quality employees was what made it a success. They have political clout, money and "know how" and operate "first class" in everything they do.

My assignment was a series of lectures entitled "The Importance of Body Composition in Beef Production." The first lecture was presented in Buenos Aires at the great Palermo livestock show. Immediately after the Angus heifer show, I spoke to 560 cattlemen - all in attendance by invitation.

After my lecture and a question and answer session, everyone retired to an adjoining area for a feast of Argentine products including beef, cheese, seafood and wine - lots of wine.

The following day was taken up by the Angus bull show with Hereford bulls being judged on the opposite side of the arena. I also attended the Palermo show in 1973 or '74, and the at that time the cattle were tied in stalls elevated in front with little bedding in an effort to make them appear tall and they were. This year the cattle were tied on the level and in deep straw.

They were very fat, and I estimated the average frame size at 6 with registered breeders talking about frame size 5 and commercial breeders preferring 4. So Argentine Angus have been through the frame size cycle just as in United States. Surprisingly the Polled Herefords showing in an adjoining ring appeared to be frame sizes 7and 8.

While in Buenos Aires we also visited the stockyards. During an earlier visit in the early 1960s, the cattle all arrived at the yards by train, but now there is no rail access and all cattle are trucked.

This is a huge market handling thousands of cattle a day. All cattle are sold at auction with the auctioneer on a catwalk above the cattle and buyers on horseback in the alley in front of the pens. The successful bidder has the privilege of rejecting one head from a pen if he so desires.

The day we visited the cattle were selling for 50 to 60 percent of the U.S. market.

While in this same area we toured a modern, well run packing facility. The plant kills mostly grass finished cattle but are beginning some grain feeding. Approximately half of the kill was trimmed, boned and boxed as in the US and the rest sold in carcass. In response to the question, "How do you evaluate carcasses?" our tour guide answered as follows.

"The retailers who buy whole carcasses prefer the fatter ones - this pleases us since our cutting tests show that we get much better yields from the leaner carcasses with the same quality of meati.

We left Buenos Aires by bus and traveled south to Mar Del Plata on the sea. Home was a lovely hotel where we enjoyed a good rest and wonderful seafood.

Balcarce was the next stop, and while in this area we were privileged to have lunch at El Volcan, the lovely ranch home of the Baglione family and, of course, a tour of their good ranch and Angus cattle.

My final two lectures were in Balcarce and Olavarria, each with 400 to 500 people in attendance - here again by invitation from the Boglione family and again followed by a reception featuring food and drink.

The trip gave me a current look at beef production in Argentina and the opportunity to address over 1,300 of the top beef cattle breeders and producers. I sincerely hope my remarks helped convince Argentine breeders of the importance of carcass cutability and quality; that seedstock breeding decisions should be based on complete and accurate performance records including carcass characteristics; and that superior genetics for beef production could be found in the United States

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